50 Years of Doctor Who: Patrick Troughton

The second month of my big Doctor Who re-watch is the Patrick Troughton era. Troughton had the unenviable task of taking over the show after William Hartnell was fired (and at which point the show’s producers came up with the idea of the Doctor being able to regenerate his body into a new form, although that exact phrase hadn’t been invented until a later era). Hartnell wasn’t the only thing being ditched by the producers, though. The new showrunners threw out the idea of the purely-historical story (after Troughton’s second story “The Highlanders” we wouldn’t see one again for another fifteen years), switching to a popular “base under siege” format involving alien attacks.

Like Hartnell’s era, the three seasons of Troughton’s time on the show are rather incomplete in the BBC Archives due to an old policy of purging old television shows over time. Unlike Hartnell, Troughton’s era is missing far more (thanks to there being less countries overseas that had bought prints that would be recovered years later); no complete stories exist from Troughton’s first season, and only one (“The Tomb of the Cybermen”) exists from his second season. Watching the stories (and pieces of partially-recovered stories), it’s all the more a pity because there’s something about Troughton’s physical performance that can’t be quite captured via script or even audio recording. Watching him leap and jump about the screen, he’s a true performer who brought so much more to the role than he was ever asked. Most Doctor Who fans hold out hope for more stories of his being recovered; every new piece and fragment found is a virtual goldmine.

Dr Who Tomb of the Cybermen
#037: The Tomb of the Cybermen

The oldest fully-complete Troughton story, which kicked off his second season. This story was originally one wiped from the archives entirely, and only returned to the BBC in late 1991. I remember watching it a year or two later, excited about seeing an previously missing story that was thought to be a masterpiece. Now that I’m rewatching it 20 years later? It doesn’t quite hold up. There are some good bits here and there. Having previously joined the Doctor and Jamie in the season finale, new companion Victoria gets some great scenes with the Doctor; they’ve got a lovely surrogate-father/daughter relationship right off the bat. On the other hand, she’s religated to damsel-in-distress more times than one can count. The bigger problem is the casual racism in this story, with the treatment of Toberman (the only non-white character). He’s every bad stereotype of the African character; the muscle-bound, brainless slave who lives to serve his masters. It’s honestly appalling. Once you skirt around this impossible-to-ignore problem it’s also just a so-so story; the idea of finding the last remnants of the evil Cybermen race and someone trying to resurrect them from their tombs is a great one, don’t get me wrong. But as soon as the secret trap of the Cybermen is revealed, it’s a story that falls apart once you try to apply logic. “The Tomb of the Cybermen” is one of those stories that works only until you start to think about it afterwards. There are (much) worse stories out there, but this is sadly not the masterpiece that my 19-year old self remembered.
Continue reading 50 Years of Doctor Who: Patrick Troughton

Five Things That Make Me Happy (part 19)

My Abuela's KitchenMy Abuela’s Table: An Illustrated Journey into Mexican Cooking by Daniela Germain
I found this cookbook at a great home goods store just down the street (Trohv) and even though the last thing I need is another cookbook, I had to take it home with me. The recipes appear to be nice and good, but what really caught my eye were the illustrations by Germain. They’re gorgeous, with delicate watercolors that occasionally bleed out of their borders and onto the page around them. I’d flipped the cookbook open to the illustrations of the different chili peppers and I just fell in love with Germain’s art; the deep, rich colors make those oranges and reds and greens just call out to me. I may never make anything from this cookbook (although I plan on doing so!), but I feel like I’ve devoured the art in it enough that it was a worthy purchase.

Oscar-Nominated Shorts Compilations
Every year, Charlie and I go to see two of the Oscar-Nominated Short Film compilations (the Live-Action and the Animated categories). These are pieces that chances are you’d never be able to see otherwise, unless you hit the film festival circuits. And while I don’t think there’s ever been a year that I was crazy about all the nominees, there’s always something to recommend about each one. This year I was especially taken by Death of a Shadow (a strange steampunk tale about a man who captures the shadows of people about to die all throughout time) and Asad (a Somali boy struggles to become a fisherman) among the live action pieces, and Adam and Dog (the story of the Garden of Eden through the eyes of the first dog) and Paperman (the start of a romantic relationship with the help of paper airplanes; you may have seen this before Wreck-It Ralph). But like I said, there’s something to recommend for all of them. 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I’m coming to this one a little late. I’d been hearing recommendations about it for ages (and first and foremost from Linda Holmes on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour), but I knew very little about it. That’s a good thing. I hate to do this, but it’s a book that the less you know about, the better; all I’ll say about the plot is that it’s about a woman who vanishes under mysterious circumstances. It’s a book that digs down deep and gets you at just the right moment, and it’s also a very fast read; I think I read it in two days. It’s not high art, and in a few places you’ll scratch your head and say, “Really? Really???” when it’s over. It doesn’t bear too much thinking about it afterward, to be honest. But it’s a classic example of the pageturner, and I’m glad I read it.

“Candy” by Robbie Williams
I know this song is a few months old (and I’ve talked about it on Facebook before, in fact), but every time I need to grin I just listen to it. Seriously, I defy you to not be happy after listening to “Candy.”

Great Friends Every February
Every year in February I head out to Los Angeles to attend the Gallifrey One convention, which is all about my all-time favorite television show Doctor Who. And yes, a lot of the attraction is the convention’s guests and programming; this was my 13th straight year of attending, after all. But just as much of an attraction is going to see all the friends that I’m reunited with every year because of Gallifrey One. There are too many to list—over the years I’ve met so many great people there—but let me just say that if none of my friends were going one year, I might stay home too. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of friends there every time I go. My friends? They’re the greatest. Just what the doctor ordered to perk up what could be a cold, grey month.

Gallifrey 2013